7:52 pm Update: True Story
I was watching Trump vs the Pope most of the afternoon. I flipped over to golf, saw Jordan was +2, flipped back to cable news. Just now, I checked the scoreboard, saw how horribly Jordan is playing, and turned to Golf Channel to watch him finish. Now, this is absolutely true: I did not have GC on fifteen seconds before one of the loser dinosaurs employed by Golf Channel says, “You know what? Tiger Woods ruined it for us by…” I couldn’t grab the remote fast enough. Back to Trump and the Pope.
Boom! (a nice surprise) We continue to rocket ahead of all historical website metrics since going Tiger-free. Today we got a nice confirmation from our host:
3:25 pm Update: Rory in at -4, sits at T-3. I’m elated. Quite honestly, I had a bad feeling Rory might falter at Riviera. Instead, he just might prove his shotmaker cred this week. Would be really cool to see him check that box so early in his career. (I’m not as concerned about Jordan because he’s going to get a shot at Colonial every year. With Rory, I’m not sure how many times he will play Riviera, or if he will ever play Colonial [which I really, really hope he does.])
It’s a bummer to have to wait so late in the day for TV coverage to begin. I watched about five minutes of Morning Drive this morning, and it was, no kidding, even worse than I remembered. I might try the pregame, but if either Tilghman or Chamblee is there, I’ll immediately turn it off. Probably won’t last long in any event. I’ve pretty much broken the habit of Golf Channel outside of live coverage.
Morning Line: Last week’s Pebble Beach Pro-Am was a surprisingly strong event, weighing in at 385 OWGR points. Would you believe this week’s Los Angeles Open is 100 points stronger at 487! Now consider this: It would have been the strongest “regular” event (non-major, Players, WGC, or playoff) on the schedule. Yes, this event — barring any late scratches — will be stronger than both the Memorial and the Arnie Invitational played last year.
Suddenly the two crown jewels of the West Coast Swing seem very healthy. Toss in record crowds at the Phoenix Open and things are really looking up.
Rory McIlroy makes his American debut this week. McIlroy needs to pick up a major or two this year else he risks falling behind Jack Nicklaus’s pace. So far this year, Rory has had two “disappointing” results in Abu and Dubai — T-3 losing to Rickie Fowler, and T-5 losing to Danny Willett.
Jordan Spieth, who has been very active this year and already has a win, would like a major or two — or the Grand Slam, perhaps — to keep him well ahead of Nicklaus’s pace.
Spieth is OWGR #1, and Rory is #3. With Jason Day not in the field, Rory climbs to #2 with a good result. Even if he wins, he could not catch Jordan. Rory and Jordan have already met once this year, with Rory besting Spieth by three strokes in Abu Dhabi (Jordan finished T-5 to Rory’s T-3).
I really like the pairings of Rory and Jordan. I was glad to see they didn’t pair them together again, as that is getting stale, and I don’t think it helps either player’s quest to win. This time, Jordan will be playing with Justin Thomas (no “good friend” jokes this year please; that’s stale, too; besides Jordan and Justin have a history at this course; think Alabama-Texas) and Fred Couples. That’s a great group; I could not have done better. Rory, who is playing in the opposite wave — another great move — is grouped with Kuchar (!) [Oops… I was wrong about that. It’s actually Bubba Watson. [Correction to correction: The tee times list Rory, Hideki, and Kuch; the live stream feature says Rory-Bubba-Hideki. I am not impressed with the PGA Tour website… What a mess. And, by the way, they still don’t have Jordan as the feature player on the Player page.]] and Matsuyama. We’ve seen quite a lot of Rory-Matsuyama, but Hideki deserves one of the marquee groupings, so if he wasn’t playing with Spieth, it was almost mandatory he be with Rory.
I’m really excited about this event. It has the potential to be something special. You know, I’ve said in the past how all great golfers must win at a shotmaker’s course, and those are — with a tip of the hat to Mr. Hogan — Colonial in Fort Worth and… Riviera in Los Angeles. So Rory really has a chance to make a statement this week. Put simply, a win by Rory this week would be, for knowledgeable golf fans, the biggest thing to happen in golf since 1986. Nicklaus won at Colonial — and earned his first pro paycheck at Riviera, for the record — and thus cemented his place on Mount Golfmore.
Let’s do a quick weather check. It would be a shame for Mother Nature to interfere… Well, it’s basically great with the caveat of this morning being a little sketchy. Morning rain looks almost certain, but nothing heavy, and it clears out for good before noon. Hopefully, it will not hinder Rory who goes out this morning. (Jordan, in the other wave, should miss all showers.)